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The Wizard and the Marvel
by Grandpa Chet Cox

At Stuffy's Tavern, where the elite meet to eat, an old man gives in to the flirtations of a barfly and gives her his best gift.

The old guy comes in at least twice a week, but this was his third time and it was only Twos Day. "Bicarbonate of soda," he requested, "and a mug of hot overlordtine." The latter was his own concoction, by which he paid for drinks and meals. To this day, I do not know where he sleeps.

"I was a great wizard once." This is where he goes after his third overlordtine. There is nothing of an alcohol persuasion in this drink of his – merely goat milk and his own powder he sells us. He tells me and the boss that there is nothing narcotic in it, and I have tried it once or twice, so I believe him. If I wanted something for a buzz or to forget that I have an old lady waiting for me at home, it would not be with his ingrediants.

"So why ain't ya a great wizard no more?" asks Miss Hazel, who hangs around here far too often and consumes far too much of liquid refreshment which do have something of a narcotic kick to them. It is not good for the joint, because she never tips and she never pays, being the daughter of the owner who is never here. She has never shown an interest in the old guy before, and this makes me more than a little suspicious.

"Miss Hazel," I sez, sez I, "the gentleman does prefer to drink alone. This is his routine whenever he comes into our fine establishment, and he does not seem to be of the youthful ages of the sort of fellows whose company youse seek."

"But he seems so sad, Archer. I bet he has a sad past, someone he's lost." She poked him wit' her elbow and winked in his face. "Whatcher story, mister?"

"My story is indeed sad, young lady. You are quite perceptive." (The "HA!" was from Finnegan down at the end of the bar, and it may have been prompted by the term "lady" or "perceptive." But I deegrass.)

"I blame myself, you see. This was supposed to be a paradise…"

"You shoot craps, mister? Freddie has a game in the back every other Watersday, when the cops ain't around." He looked at her, puzzled, probably wondering what a "cop" was, since I was wonderin' the same thing. But he was the one who was talkin' about the pair o' dice, which he had never mentioned in his story before. Not that I had ever listened. Not that I was really listening now. Because Table Two had just been unvacated, and the party (which looked to be a better clientelee) had just waved for soivice.

By the time I had watered them and Freddie had thrown down a dish of his famous hash, Miss Hazel had definitely made progress in the way of closeness with the old gent. Her eyes sparkled and perked up when I returned to their conversation.

"Archer, I'll thank you to show a little more respect for my new boyfriend in the future." This would have made Miss Hazel's third new boyfriend in a for'night. "He remembers stuff about the godwhen time, and says he knows how ta fix it."

She was gonna take him for what she could, and was gonna leave with him that night. I kinda liked the old fella, y'know, and I didn't want him played for a sucker and wake up broke in a week and without a home. Come ta think of it, I never did find out where he lived.

But I gave Freddie the eye, showin' him that we could probably use a little help up front. He slid in next to the old gent, and Miss Hazel's dirty look would have peeled the yellow off Freddie's tooth if he'd a'seen it. Miss Hazel's look, not his own tooth, you understand.

"Mr Archer, didn't this old gentleman tell me 'n' you just t'other day that he'd caused some old war or battle when he was younger? Is that what you talkin' about, Miss Hazel?"

"No, stupid, he –" but she was interrupted by the old guy hisself.

"It is true," he confessed. Well, he looked guilty. "I tried to share the power of the gods with a mortal who could champion the humans against the gods' frivolous use of this mortal sphere. But the power corrupted him, and they all destroyed each other, or at least vanished from this existence."

"And now you've been searchin' for one young and untainted for all these years, isn't that right, Mr Samn?"

"You ain't gotta look far, Old Man," chuckled Freddie. "Miss Hazel there – why she's double untainted!"

"Is that so?" peered the old geezer, and I swear I saw a glint of glee in his blurry red eyes. "Are you, Miss Hazel, one who is innocent?"

"As innocent as the day I was borned!" she swore, over my and Freddie's objections, which went unheard.

"Then you shall make reparations for my sin!" The wrinkled and hairy old fellow was now speaking with a deeper voice, almost booming. "Come to the back alley, out in the open, that you may speak my name!"

Now Miss Hazel is no flowering youth, and any innocence of hers had been laid by the side in her younger youth, if you know what I mean. But me and Freddie weren't gonna let her be led into no alley by what now looked like the dirtiest of dirty old men. For some reason though, when he looked at us, we lost all ambition and just felt like trying some of that hot overlordtine ourselves.

So we just sat there – Freddie sat, I stood on the other side of the bar – and watched them go out the back door. A minute later, we heard Miss Hazel shout something and then a boom of thunder.

"Sounds like it's gonna rain, Mr Archer," sez Freddie.

"Yeah," I says, sez I. "I hope Miss Hazel and Mr Sha Sam don't get wet."

Copyright 2013 by Grandpa Chet Cox. Appears here by permission.


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